Will LIV Golf, PGA Tour Merger Bring Unwelcome Attention? | Sports Betting News | LSR Podcast 198
Sportsbooks and state regulators must adjust to a new reality in which a Saudi wealth fund essentially owns the PGA Tour, as well as a team golf product no one truly understands. Also, why an integrity expert believes we should expect more NFL betting probes and how North Carolina legalizing online sports betting apps could affect its neighbors.
Matt Brown (00:09):
Hello and welcome to episode number 198 of the LSR Podcast. My name is Matt Brown, joined each and every week by the brightest minds in all of the gaming industry. With me, I have but one of them, but man, is that mind smart, and let me tell you, you are going to learn some stuff today, and that is Adam Candee. You can find him on the Twitter machine. You can follow him for free, and you should. Just smash the button @AdamCandee, two E’s, no Y. If you hate yourself, you can follow me @MattBrownM2. Guys, everything we do, absolutely free, so please go ahead, subscribe, rate, review, do all those little things that are pretty awesome to help us and help us climb those charts out there and just get more people tuned into this very here podcast. We’ll talk about a new state that looks like we are good to go with.
We will see what is some of the fallout here of the things that are going on over in the NFL. But Adam, let’s kick things off here with a story over at LSR about this LIV/PGA Tour thing. I think what people maybe not realize who aren’t just super, super in the bubble, maybe even if you just follow the business aspect of things and don’t even follow the true actual day-to-day betting aspect of things, you might not have realized that not everybody was offering LIV betting. Some places it’s just a personal decision. Some places it’s a regulatory decision. So there are some implications to come down from what may or may not come down from this merger.
Sportsbooks and state regulators must adjust to a new reality
Adam Candee (01:28):
Yeah, I thought it might be good for us to bring it inside the sports betting bubble that we deal with every day to understand a little bit more about the implications of the LIV PGA Tour merger on golf betting. Obviously we have the opportunity on this podcast to have you, a pretty sharp golf bettor, talk about the ins and outs of week-to-week, what it means to have these markets available with the PGA Tour and with LIV. But our Sam McQuillan did a really good piece talking to different regulators and also talking to different traders at different sportsbooks about what’s available. It really is a patchwork across the country when it comes to the PGA Tour, which of course, widely available markets in terms of outright winners and maybe first-round leaders and things like that.
But as you’ve discussed many times, deeper markets, not available in all states, certainly not available in Nevada. But when it comes to LIV Golf, in particular a product that, let’s be honest, I think a lot of people don’t even truly understand the team aspect and how it’s all put together because no one’s been paying attention up until now. It’s on the CW, in case you were wondering. LIV Golf has pulled a lot of big names, but it hasn’t attracted a lot of betting interest. In fact, in a couple of states, requests were denied for LIV Golf to be offered by state regulators. For some sportsbooks, it just hasn’t really been worth putting the effort into creating a lot of deep markets around LIV because there hasn’t been the interest up until now. So what happens with the merger? We don’t know necessarily what’s going to go on with the LIV product.
Is there going to be team golf in some way? We don’t know going forward. There’s a lot we don’t know right now other than the fact that it appears that the Saudi Public Investment Fund is going to be, let’s say kindly, the majority investor, if not the controlling interest ,in the PGA Tour. Some of the regulators came out and said, “If a new entity is ultimately created, if it’s the PGA Tour and LIV together and it’s an entirely new governing body, there may have to be a reevaluation of the licensure for those being offered.” So it’s a really complicated web with a lot of potential entanglement here. Matt, I’m curious from your perspective, when you heard about this, you were someone who I know generally sticks to PGA Tour betting, and I know occasionally Korn Ferry and things like that, but what did you think from a betting perspective when you saw this all go down?
Matt Brown (04:06):
Yeah, just from a broad scope is LIV, even if it would’ve been offered, was basically unbettable for the way that I bet golf anyway. I’m a very data-driven golf bettor, and the stats that I use and the stuff that is very important to me is not readily available. So I probably wouldn’t have been a big LIV bettor anyway, even if it was something that I could get into. But what it does now, you would only assume with them being under the same umbrella that now the stuff that you can get from the PGA Tour will be afforded to LIV in some way, shape or form. Now what LIV actually looks like, as you mentioned, was we don’t really know exactly what the shape of it is going to be, but you would like to think that at least the strokes gained data, some of the advanced stuff, the shot tracker stuff, all the different things like that, that we are able to get on the PGA Tour, is going to be available to LIV guys.
So I think from that aspect, it will at least make the product a little bit more attractive to people who are a little bit more savvy when it comes to golf betting. But really, it does come down to what is it actually going to be structured and how’s it going to be structured and how much of this stuff bleeds over to the PGA Tour as well? We heard Jay Monahan even say, Adam, that does mean that there’s some team aspect on the PGA side of things? We don’t really know yet and blah, blah, blah. It seems like there’s still a lot more questions than answers when it comes down to all this, so I understand why regulators are still scratching their head. Hell, I’m still scratching my head as to how this is going to look and how this is going to play out.
But I think at the very least, the product itself becomes a little bit more bettable if what I assume to be the case, which is they are going to be afforded the same stuff that the PGA has that I think at least you can get an idea of who’s playing good? Who’s not playing good? Where’s the strength of player X? Where’s a weakness of player Y and all those things that we’re able to get from the PGA Tour dudes. So I think that that makes it at least a little bit more appealing to me, but frankly, the team aspect really muddies the waters when it comes to all this as to how you really go about betting it and what’s more important, is it the individual stuff? Is it the team stuff? Where does that go? So something I would have to dig into a little bit further, but I am still so … since we don’t really know how this is going to look, and we’re so still in the dark, and there’s like, “Yeah, it’s going to change for 2024,” so we’re still six months away from having any idea of how this is going to go down, I am as confused as some of these regulators are.
Adam Candee (06:37):
Regulators might be getting more and more involved in this territory. In fact, we already know that Senator Richard Blumenthal is going to look into the merger itself because the Saudi sportwashing, as some have called it, is as pervasive in this as it has been in anything. We know that the Saudi government through this investment arm has made a significant purchase in the NBA. The NBA, in fact, changed its rules to allow sovereign wealth funds to be able to invest. But when it comes down to the regulatory level, in particular, when it comes to the Saudi government and the PGA Tour, this is going to become very interesting because when you open the door to regulators being able to ask questions like this, then you potentially get into territory where they might get uncomfortable with offering betting that is related not only to LIV but is related to the PGA Tour.
I just think there’s a political benefit here that has nothing to do with anything tangible in terms of would there be an integrity concern with betting on either LIV or the PGA Tour with Saudi ownership? There’s no increased integrity concern in terms of the tournaments themselves, but there is an opportunity to score political points for some if they were to choose to do that by casting scrutiny on to any licensure or approval that the PGA Tour and/or LIV would have when it comes to allowing betting on these tournaments.
Matt Brown (08:13):
Yeah, really the other wrinkle here becomes, and I think that a lot of the reason why I think some of these books didn’t really care whether they were allowed to offer LIV or not is, we were trying to figure out what does the team aspect really play as far as motivational factor from an individual standpoint? Because golf as we have typically grown to know and love it has been an individual sport and people are priced accordingly. But when you’re guaranteed money and the prize money also gets divvied up amongst teams and teammates and things like, do people’s strategies and motivations change throughout the course of a tournament? That’s something that one, books didn’t have any idea, we didn’t have any idea, and I don’t know if we still have any idea how that would shape out if that became way more prevalent even on the PGA Tour side of things.
If the money is good enough, does strategy change as far as how these guys go out and try to play some of these courses? Because you’re really just playing for your team is more than you’re playing for yourself, where we have typically just handicapped this as an individual sport. We have priced this as an individual sport. The only motivation was for a guy to be in first place so that he got all the money. So there is just a pretty fascinating deal with all of this outside of just the monumental difference in the sport itself. But from a gambling aspect, I do think there’s going to be a learning curve for not only us, but for the books and the bookmakers and odds makers themselves.
Adam Candee (09:44):
Well, motivation becomes a major question even before the merger when it comes to LIV, because these guys got their money already. There’s no competing for the money when you got paid 100, 200 million to go over to this tour in the first place. Yeah, sure there there’s going to be a competition, but it is not competition in the same way that we’re used to seeing when it comes to the Tour. In fact, Matt, it feels to me when you talk about team golf when it’s not the Ryder Cup or college golf, then you’re almost talking about the old Survivor Series in WWF back in the day, like, “Let’s put together five mercenaries and see what they do against these other five mercenaries.”
Matt Brown (10:25):
Yeah, it’s going to be super interesting, and I’m here for it to play out trying to figure out how it’s all going to go down because I am … as a bettor, and as someone that is super interested in just the future of the sport in general, we’re talking about, this is something I would not only enjoy betting, but even if the betting aspect went away for me, I love watching golf. I think that we’re in the best era of golf we’ve ever been in. We have legitimately the deepest pool of golfers that every time that they tee it up can go and win a tournament that there is, I think there’s a lot at stake here for golf just in general, because you know my opinion on this, Adam, ’cause not only have we done programming before, but just we’re friends and we talk offline.
I think golf maybe has the biggest area for growth in the entire sports betting industry, the way that it’s set up, the way that there’s the time between shots and holes and things like, once we really get good at this live betting thing, and once we really get widespread super fast mobile connections, which I guess people don’t even really realize, we’re so bad at when it comes to internet speed. We’re so bad when it comes to mobile speed comparatively to some of the other countries in the rest of the world. But when we catch up there, golf could offer some crazy ridiculously cool markets and could really … if you want to talk about engagement, how about being able to just pick three groups that you want to follow, and then the app just caters those bets to you because those are the three groups you happen to be watching on television.
There’s just all kinds of things that I think that golf has going in its favor that just these other sports don’t have. Inherently the games just move faster. That’s faster paced in basketball and baseball and in football, et cetera, et cetera, but where golf, listen, you hit the ball, you got to walk to it. You got to go get it, and you wait on other guys, you wait on holes, you wait on greens, there’s just, the way that it goes, I think endgame betting could really, really drive engagement and could be really cool for this sport. So a lot of these decisions and the way this is going to go down could be monumental for me for what I think could be a massive growth market for this industry.
Adam Candee (12:35):
It absolutely could. I can even walk that back one step and not talk about in play. I know I’m risking setting off a powder keg here when I say this, but even getting widespread offering of the more interesting markets in golf, we know that the state of Nevada is horrendous when it comes to offering golf betting. A lot of people get their first exposure to sports betting in Vegas. So they’re used to, “Well, do I bet the winner of the tournament?” Well, if I bet the winner of the tournament at some point before Thursday or even during the tournament, if that player blows up on the front nine, I have no reason to pay attention going forward. But when you can bet top tens, top twenties, top forties, when you can bet first-round leaders, when you can bet top finisher from X country, there are many, many ways to get involved in golf betting that are incremental that don’t require you to tune in for six or seven hours of a round. We just need to get people widespread access to it.
Why integrity expert says to expect more NFL betting probes
Matt Brown (13:35):
Yes, no, absolutely. So we will certainly be following this as this progresses as not only from a business aspect but from a sports betting … Literally, every single thing that could possibly go down, we’ll be looking at this for sure. Now, one of the other sports that we have talked about a lot here over the last several weeks has been the NFL because there’s been some decisions come down and some suspensions come down that some that we agree with, some that we don’t. You were able to have the team over there talk with Matthew Holt, one of the guys that has founded a company in which the integrity of the game, we talk about this all the time, we are very, very, very, very, very into the fact that listen, is the NFL rigged and the NBA and all this like all these people were saying?
No, absolutely not. That is not what we’re talking about and we’re talking about the integrity of the game, but we are talking about some of these other little smaller things and especially if we’re trying to catch some of these guys that may or may not be breaking the golden rule, which is betting on their own sport. So you guys were able to catch up with Matthew Holt just about all the stuff that’s been going on with the NFL recently.
Adam Candee (14:42):
Yeah, interesting interview with Mike Mazzeo. We already ran one part of it talking about the NFL. We’ll have another part of it coming here in the next couple of days talking about some of the college betting scandals that have gone on in recent days, Iowa and Iowa State in particular. But the one about the NFL following up on the Isaiah Rodgers suspension is one that I think is a worthwhile read for everybody to understand not only where the future is going with this, but where we’ve come from. So you mentioned Matthew Holt and U.S. Integrity, and essentially what you have with U.S. Integrity is taking the knowledge that has been at sportsbooks for a very long time about how to identify not only risk, but to preserve integrity and trying to transfer some of this to less experienced operators who might not have done it in the US space in the same way.
So U.S. Integrity partners with not only sportsbooks, but regulators to try to identify potential problems. They were at the heart of what went on with the Alabama situation that goes back to betting in Iowa. The takeaway that we got was that this is not the end of NFL betting probes, that there are more to come, that frankly there are already others that are in process right now that are being investigated. The conclusion that Matt Holt came to is that it is because regulators are no longer in the business of having to process applications and do all of the due diligence of licensure, and they have more time to spend on these investigations.
Now, I think there’s probably more nuance to that in the end because I think there really is more awareness. There is more access. There are more states that have legal betting apps available. There are more players who know what these legal betting apps are, and despite the NFL’s best efforts in terms of education say that they don’t necessarily know what all the rules are. It’s a very interesting read in which Mike and Matt go deep into the mechanics of what’s coming down the line in the future and what regulators are doing to try to be more diligent about these things. But Matt, I think that the biggest takeaway is to say Isaiah Rodgers is not the wave breaking on the shore. It is maybe more the wave beginning to crest, and there is still more to come.
Matt Brown (17:15):
Yeah, listen, if we didn’t think that there was already emphasis on what you can and can’t do out there, listen, it is going to be magnified 10 x now and it should be. Listen, I’ve been in locker rooms, you’ve been in locker rooms, we mentioned this whenever this first came up with the Jameson Williams stuff, this is nothing new. You walk in, there is stuff all plastered all over about the dos and don’ts and gambling has been on there forever. You could literally go and do any collegiate, any locker room, “Do not gamble. Do not do this. Do not do that. Do not do this.” So that being said, there are always going to be people who just don’t care about the rules and don’t worry about the rules or, Adam, I also think there are people who are not even malicious and not whatever, who just basically are, for lack of a better term, they’re just clueless.
It is just like you read something, it doesn’t quite process and then you just move on with your life normal. I’m not saying that that’s right, and I’m not making an excuse for those people, but I think some of these instances definitely aren’t malicious and aren’t sticking a middle finger up to the establishment. It’s just more that you like, “Ah, whatever,” and you just move on with your life. That’s not the way to handle it for sure. But now that’s just not going to be allowed. This is the reason Matthew Holt and them and the reason legalized gambling and everything exists is because we can identify these situations and try to remedy them. This is why we continue to beat the drum for this and preach that no, legalized gambling has not increased these acts happening.
These happen and have been happening for 50 plus years, it’s now we’re catching the people. This is a good thing. Overall, we are actually catching the people that are doing the thing that they’re not supposed to be doing. So look, I’m glad that Holt and team are all in on all of this. I know that they were also part of the big spearheaded thing whenever they found out the stuff about the UFC, which we know led to instant changes within that organization. Fighters probably shouldn’t have been able to bet anyway. But no longer are fighters able to bet coaches and managers can’t bet either, so we are making a change. Adam, you and I, we’re realistic about this.
We’re still in the infancy here. I know it’s like people who’ve been in the gambling industry for a long time just think that everything’s been thought of and everything’s been taken care of. But look, you learn along the way and so long as you’re correcting the mistakes that are being made and so long as you are putting in policy that is one, followable, which we talked about with the Jameson Williams stuff, and as long as it’s not asinine, then we’re heading in the right direction. There’s going to be missteps along the way. But I do believe that we have a pretty good … Look, man, I thought you and I would’ve come on here 20 different times already talking about some sort of major, major, major disaster in this industry. Fortunately, that has not been the case, and so I think we’re doing pretty good right now.
Adam Candee (20:19):
The idea of nefarious, by the way, I think is really off in the distance because the betting incidents that we have heard have had nothing to do, at least from what’s been reported, with inside information. That is the key concern when it comes to players. It is not so much that a player is going to affect his own performance. We’ve talked about this. In professional sports, there is way too much money at stake for these guys to be risking themselves. But what they know about their teammates, what they might know about the other team is certainly the inside information that could cause a problem. Now, Isaiah Rodgers by what was reported by ESPN was betting 25 and $50 on the games.
Matt Brown (21:02):
Adam Candee (21:03):
I don’t care if he’s betting on his own games at 25 to $50. I know that might be something that sounds beyond the pale to some people, but he’s not changing what he does on the field over a $50 bet-
Matt Brown (21:16):
Adam Candee (21:16):
… no way, no how. The truly ridiculous part as we’ve discussed — but I don’t know that you and I have discussed on this podcast since this information came out, we discussed it last week — there’s a report out there from one of the Lions beat reporters from one of the radio stations talking about that he has information that Jameson Williams bets were not even placed at the team facility. They were placed at the team hotel, that they were on the road, and that he was betting on a college game on the road. That’s the sort of thing where we talk about the education curve so much with players and what they need to know, to me, that’s the education curve that has to take place on the side of the leagues-
Matt Brown (21:55):
Adam Candee (21:57):
… because the leagues need to be able to adjust as well. This can’t just be the league’s handing down dogma and players having to adjust to what the leagues say. The leagues need to be able to learn from what’s going on out there and ask themselves real questions, “Do we want to take Jameson Williams potentially one of the most exciting players to come out of college, last year and this year, and take him off the field for six games over betting on a college game from a team hotel?” That seems counterproductive to your business interests.
Matt Brown (22:30):
The other thing, and precedent here, we have seen real actual crimes. We’re talking about real actual crimes that have happened where these suspensions have been less than what we’re getting for Jameson Williams for, again, allegedly betting, rumored, I should say, betting not even in a facility, in a hotel on the road. We have to have cooler heads prevail here. I’m praying still that some sort of appeal process will come through here and that somebody will take a look at this policy and say, “Guys, we can’t just blanket across the board just for guys that are doing some of these other things.”
Now, if you want to slap him on the hand, if you don’t slap him on the wrist, I’m with you, I would rather see this policy changed and have more common-sense policy in all of this. But look, if you’re not willing to change the policy and you’re not willing to admit that you were wrong, at least admit that you were wrong with the actual punishment. This is not worth six games. We’re talking about a third of the season for something that is absolutely innocent. I think you would even agree, I’m not putting words in your mouth, this is absolutely innocent. Not betting on your own sport, not even in a team facility. You’re in a hotel on the road, tell me the harm here. Tell me the crime. I can’t wrap my brain around it.
Adam Candee (23:55):
I get that it’s perception about inside information as I talked about earlier. But in the end, it is not the sort of thing where Jameson Williams was doing this with the intention of making money off some information that he had. He was doing it as a young man interested in betting. He’s the target demographic for what most sportsbooks are looking for right now. He is a young man with wealth who is interested in participating in legalized sports betting. So that, to me, is ridiculous in terms of a punishment being warranted. But I’ll take your point, Matt, and I’ll go one farther and say, make the punishments clear. Post the house rules on this.
Matt Brown (24:36):
Adam Candee (24:37):
Put it in a situation where it’s collectively bargained and you say, “If you are caught doing X, Y, or Z, then the punishments are A, B or C.” Instead of having the nebulous situation that we have now where Roger Goodell can say, “Eh, this one gets four, this one gets six, this one gets the whole season.”
Matt Brown (24:55):
I agree with you a million percent there, and again, I continue to hold out hope that cooler heads will prevail in this whole situation. To wrap things up here, Adam, great discussion today, by the way, I feel pretty good about these first two topics that we hit on, but we look like we might have a new state in the fold come New Years.
Adam Candee (25:16):
It’s almost like you and I have done this before. It’s crazy.
Matt Brown (25:19):
NC legalizing online sports betting apps could affect its neighbors
Adam Candee (25:19):
So Roy Cooper, the governor of North Carolina signed into law the North Carolina sports betting bill. If you’ve been listening to the last couple of weeks of the podcast, you have heard us discuss that this was getting closer and closer. The most important things for you to know if you are catching up right now, January 8, 2024 is the first time that a legal sports bet could be taken in North Carolina. You have to get the regulatory and licensing structure in place before then, but you can see exactly what they’re aiming toward is to get the NFL playoffs and the Superbowl captured with online sports betting in North Carolina, tax rate of 18%. That was increased 4% during the process, and you’ll also have a wealth of online sports betting brands that will be able to participate. You will have eight professional franchises that can build in-person sportsbooks if they so choose.
It appears to me looking at the structure of North Carolina, that this is a market that has tried to take some learnings from other states and put them into play to have a hybrid of online and in-person, to have a tax rate that is not at the very, very bottom like it is in say, Nevada, where you’re dealing with a tax rate below 7%, but it’s not the onerous 51% that you have in New York, and that also puts some fantasy sports regulations in place for the prize picks and underdogs of the world. It’s the sort of legislation where it appears everyone came out happy with this thing, even if it took a couple of years for it to ultimately pass.
Matt Brown (26:53):
Look, keep some money within the state, not that Charlotte is necessarily close to a legalized sports betting state, but listen, you are bordered by Tennessee. You are bordered by Virginia. There were definitely some people who were making trips to go and make some sports bets, and so now here you are, North Carolina and you are able to keep some of that money in-state as well.
Adam Candee (27:15):
You absolutely are. You’re talking about having three of the major professional sports in place, and obviously you have as rabid of a college sports betting market as you could find, especially on the basketball side.
Matt Brown (27:29):
Guys, everything we do, absolutely free. So we do appreciate your support, which is also free. Just by hitting the little pause button here and going down, giving us a five-star review, leaving a nice little comment in there, that helps as well. Adam and company doing awesome work over there on legalsportsreport.com. You can find all the words to the stories that we’ve talked about over there. You should take that in if you possibly can. You can follow Adam on the Twitter machine @AdamCandee two E’s, no Y, and as always, Apple, Spotify, Google, whatever it might be, go ahead and subscribe there as well. For Adam …
Adam Candee (28:01):
Matt Brown (28:02):
Talk to you guys next week.